Blazes stamped out as officials say spate of fires under control
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Blazes stamped out as officials say spate of fires under control

Brush fire battled near Hadera, forest fire outside Kiryat Malachi extinguished by firefighting aircraft after authorities say ‘no active sites left’

A brush fire that erupted in the Haruvit Forest, outside the southern city of Kiryat Malachi on November 27, 2016. (Israel Police)
A brush fire that erupted in the Haruvit Forest, outside the southern city of Kiryat Malachi on November 27, 2016. (Israel Police)

Firefighters on Sunday quickly extinguished one brush fire and were working to get a second under control Sunday morning, as authorities offered assurances that the wave of wildfires that swept across the country over the past six days had come to an end, at least for the time being.

A brush fire was reported in open land near the community of Talmei Elazar, near the coastal town of Hadera. Firefighters had gotten partial control of the blaze, according to the Ynet news website.

Further south, a blaze near the city of Kiryat Malachi was quickly put out thanks to a firefighting aircraft in the area.

Police said a firefighting aircraft monitoring the southern coastal area noticed smoke from the Haruvit Forest, and rushed to the scene to extinguish the flames.

A statement from police said firefighters were securing the area around the Haruvit fire and an investigation into the blaze had been opened.

About an hour earlier, Israel’s fire and rescue service said the wildfires ravaging the country that forced tens of thousands to flee their homes and saw more than 30 people arrested had come to an end.

“There are no active sites left,” spokesman Yoram Levy told AFP. “Since last night it’s pretty calm, we have no new activity.”

Firefighters had since Tuesday been battling wildfires throughout the country which on Thursday hit major city Haifa, forcing some 60,000 residents to evacuate their homes.

An Israeli woman carries some belongings from a burnt house, hit by a massive forest fire in the Northern city of Haifa, Israel on November 25, 2016. (Gili Yaari /Flash90)
An Israeli woman carries some belongings from a burnt house, hit by a massive forest fire in the Northern city of Haifa, Israel on November 25, 2016. (Gili Yaari /Flash90)

Firefighting planes from Israel and countries including Russia, Turkey, Greece, France, Spain and Canada dumped tons of water and retardants on fires.

Palestinians had joined the efforts, sending 41 firefighters and eight trucks.

The Magen David Adom rescue service reported Saturday that among the 133 people treated by the organization for fire-related injuries, one was seriously hurt and three others were moderately injured. The overall tally is likely higher, officials said, as some people – one estimate suggested as many as 50 – may have gone to hospitals on their own for injuries such as smoke inhalation.

Meanwhile, the Nature and Parks Authority reported that some 30,000 dunams (7,400 acres) of national parks were burned. The Jewish National Fund, which plans and manages many of the country’s forests, said some 11,000 additional dunams (2,700 acres) of its own forests were also destroyed.

The 747 Supertanker helps to extinguish a forest fire which broke out near Nataf, outside Jerusalem on November 26, 2016. (Israel Police)
The 747 Supertanker helps to extinguish a forest fire which broke out near Nataf, outside Jerusalem on November 26, 2016. (Israel Police)

In all, as much as 130,000 dunams (32,000 acres) of natural forests and brush were destroyed, about 30 percent more than the territory affected by the Carmel Forest fire of 2010. A great deal of the Judean Hills National Park and the Kfir Nature Reserve were burned.

Haifa city officials said Saturday that the fires ravaged some 28,000 dunams (6,900 acres) of land in the city since Thursday. Between 400 and 530 homes were damaged by the fires there.

More favorable weather, including a rise in humidity and drop in wind, is expected by Tuesday, while forecasts look for rain by Thursday, ending the unseasonable dry spell that started and exacerbated much of the wave of fires.

But officials on Sunday are also looking at a wave of arson, most carried out by Palestinians, that reportedly were responsible for some of the most damaging fires, including in Haifa.

People run as wildfires rages in Haifa, Israel, Thursday, Nov. 24, 2016. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)
People run as wildfires rages in Haifa, Israel, Thursday, Nov. 24, 2016. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)

In all, at least 35 people have been arrested since Thursday on suspicion of setting fires or inciting others to do so. Most are Palestinians, but the Haaretz daily reports Sunday that at least 10 are Israeli Arabs.

It was not immediately clear that the motive of all the arsonists was nationalistic. Some of the fires they are believed to have started were near Arab villages and towns.

Israeli security officials on Saturday night gave preliminary indications that weather conditions were the prime cause of the initial wave of fires. Arsonists became a factor from Wednesday and into the weekend.

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